Friday, July 25, 2014

The world's biggest, exclusively solar-powered boat is the "MS Tûranor PlanetSolar," which is Swiss-flagged, and it sailed into Corinth yesterday (24.07).

The 31-metre-long catamaran will stay docked in Corinth for three days before continuing its journey to the Ermioni area to take part in an underwater archaeological investigation.

This joint archaeological mission -conducted by Geneva University in collaboration with the Swiss School of Archaeology, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and the Marine Antiquities Ephorate- aims to explore and map the topography of a submerged prehistoric settlement in the Argolic Gulf. The boat intends to cross the Isthmus by sailing through the Corinth Canal and will then head to the area where the archaeological investigation will take place, after which it will dock in nearby Nafplio. It is due to arrive in Piraeus port on Monday, August 4.

The vessel, built in Germany and currently used as a floating marine research laboratory by Geneva University, was launched on 31 March 2010, and in May 2012, became the first-ever solar electric vehicle to circumnavigate the globe. It is covered in over 500 square metres of solar panels generating 93 kW, which connect to one of the two electric motors in each hull, and carries 8.5 tons of lithium-ion batteries in its two hulls, while it can reach speeds of up to 14 knots.

A study conducted by Australian Fairfax Media shows that three out of ten people in Melbourne speak a language other than English when they return to their homes. In fact, according to the relevant data, 251 languages from all around the world are currently spoken in the Australian city.

Greek is the first most spoken foreign language in metropolitan Melbourne among 251 languages, followed by Italian, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Arabic, according a study analysis conducted by Fairfax Media. This shows that many Greek migrants, who have settled in Melbourne, are still in touch with their roots.

According to the study 200,000 more residents of Melbourne speak a language other than English, compared to the data from a decade ago.

Sifnos -the third island on the boat line from Piraeus, via Kythnos and Milos, to Santorini- is not only a summer destination but also ideal for fall and spring. The island has fauna and flora that decorate its amazing paths -there are 120 kilometers of walking paths on the island- which constitute just one of the reasons why this island is a must-see.

These trails go through areas which have been declared as special protected areas are integrated into the European Network of Natural Protected Areas "Natura 2000," thus becoming an area of broader interest, under European Law.

The Natura area of Sifnos, with an average altitude of 150 meters, is home to 19 rare, primarily indigenous species of plants and animals, and there has been a recorded presence of 39 bird species. There are various trails, with varying levels of difficulty. One particular route is from Apollonia to the eastern town of Kastro -the former capital of Sifnos- which appears to emerge from beneath the sea.

Besides the plantations, rocks, watermills and the incredible scenery, this path is also a treat for your sense of smell: the scent of oregano, marjoram, thyme, and sage, which locals collect. It is said that the only way to know Sifnos is to hike on it.

Another route is climbing Profitis Ilias from the east. The actual name of the monastery is Prophitis Ilias Psilos ("psilos" means high in Greek). Wherever you look on this path, there are cedars along the uphill path -which is the result of the personal work and mastery of local volunteers.

Enjoy your walk and happy trails!

More information: You Are Here Magazine (1/2014); See also Greek News Agenda: Sifnos in Top Islands under the Sun

August for Greeks, apart from a month of relaxation, also means a month for socialization and celebration. Almost every city, town or village across the country, on the mainland and on islands, celebrates every August by organizing traditional festivities, called 'panigyria' in Greek.

The majority of these feasts is linked to religion and is traditionally held in honour of the patron saint. In earlier times, when local societies were more conservative, these feasts were a unique opportunity for relaxation following the hard summer harvest work, socialization and entertainment, not to mention even for finding a husband or wife!

The peak of celebrations comes right in the very heart of summer, on August 15, when the Dormition of Virgin Mary is observed. This day is not a day of mourning for Her loss, but a day of joy for the union of the mother with her beloved son, the blossoming of nature, the end of summer, the unification of families and the return to the homeland.

Unique customs and traditions revive that day across the country, with 'panigyria' being at their peak with all-night celebrations, folk dances, good food and wine. Here are some of the most popular ones:

On the Cyclades group of islands: in Folegandros -on August 15- locals and visitors sit all around one, single giant table, eating, drinking and dancing all night long. On Kato (Lower) Koufonisi Island, residents and visitors arrive by boat from its sibling Pano (Upper) Koufonisi island and start dancing traditional dances while eating fresh fried fish.

In Filoti village in mainland of Naxos Island, people dress in traditional costumes and dance all day and all night long, while tasting local wine and appetizers. Last but not least, the famous panigyri of Virgin Ekatontapylian on Paros Island where local wine flows abundantly.

In the Northeastern Aegean sea, the undisputable queen of local festivities is Ikaria island with the 'panigyri' of Christos Raches -the village that never sleeps- being the most famous one! In Ayiassos on Lesvos island, there is a big, multi-day festival, with preparations beginning from early August, while in the picturesque village of Pyrgi on Chios Island is the only place in Greece where you will see dancing the Pyrgousiko folk dance.

In the Dodecanese group of islands, the 'panigyri' of Virgin Spiliani in Nisyros lasts, more or less, 9 days, while in Karpathos, you will dance together with locals dressed in traditional costumes in the rhythm of lutes, lyres and bagpipes.

On Greece’s mainland and especially in the Peloponnese, the biggest and most famous 'panigyri' is undoubtedly that of Tegea in Arcadia. Celebrations last from August 13 to 20, including competitions of folk songs and dances, athletics and other cultural events that attract thousands of visitors every year.

In the villages of Macedonia, 'panigyria' have their own charm. In Samarina, at an altitude of 1.650 meters, there is a big celebration with the active participation of the youth, who dance the traditional Tsiatsios in the churchyard of Virgin Mary by the sound of the clarinet.

In Siatista, every August revives the custom of riders, whereby horse riders heading to the monastery of Mikrokastro, kneel at the icon of Virgin Mary and return to the village to dance till morning. In the Epirus region and the village of Kallarites -known also as Epirus’ "Eagle's Nest" because of its altitude at 1,200 meters- the celebration is quite large with locals dancing the traditional dance of Tsamikos.

This is not at all an exhaustive list of the traditional festivities across the country. On the contrary, this is only a small taste of the feasts that visitors come across their journey in Greece. There are so many more 'panigyria' out there -ready to be discovered. So, don’t hesitate at all to follow the locals in these celebrations and form memories that will stay with you forever!

The Greek News Agenda (GNA) editorial team wishes its readers relaxing summer holidays. 

We will be back on September 1, 2014.